The Missing Link for a Successful Future in Business
By Curt Simon Harlinghausen
Curt Simon Harlinghausen founded his first agency in 1994. He leads the Business Transformation practice at Publicis Media in EMEA and is the CEO of akom360. He's a mentor, a challenger and advisor for international incubators. Also he has founded several companies and is invested in startups all around the world. He's an international expert in the digital and investment arena and has spoken at events like SXSW, TEDx, and DMEXCO.
The Missing Link for a Successful Future in Business
BY Curt Simon Harlinghausen
Education is King. Experiencing is King Kong. Sharing is Donkey Kong.
For fifteen years I’ve been working for enterprise companies, universities, organizations and events all over the world as a strategist, inspiration source, visionary and problem solver. And with every passing year, especially as the business world has become increasingly digital, I have seen more evidence of a major gap: Education.
Every aspect of a business, from its relationships to its product development, suffers as a result of this education gap – a gap that’s reflected in company training programs, in the way students learn, in how infrequently they share what they’ve learned, and in many other ways. To prepare for the future, we all have to change the way we think about education and collaboration, and this is especially important today, when people tend to change employers every two to three years. Workplace turnover has already had a significant impact on the corporate culture at places like Google, where they have been wrestling with the issue for a couple of years now. According to payroll consultancy PayScale, many Google employees (especially those who belong to Generation Y) leave in their second year, even after passing rigorous entry testing and despite their great working environment. This is partly because working at Google makes them very attractive to other employers, but it’s also due to the lack of growth and educational opportunities for recent hires. In the company’s early days, Google employees were able to devote 10 – 20% of their work hours to learning, experimenting or pursuing their own projects. Today, this is no longer the case. (You can see a detailed discussion of this here.)
A small number of companies track their employees’ capabilities in order to better plan and prepare for their evolution. Such tracking is more common among West Coast tech companies like Facebook, LinkedIn, Evernote, Microsoft and Oracle, and it led the latter to make a $1.4 billion investment in computer science and coding education across Europe in a sweeping corporate commitment to building students’ skills in software development and the creation of new technology. Oracle has recognized that their future growth relies on educated employees, and the earlier they find them, the better: they have sought access to students and lecturers in order to prequalify potential new staff members.
Prequalification is an important step, but continuous education needs to take place, too, both internally (through training, knowledge sharing, hackathons, individual coaching and other means) and externally (via workshops, presentations, conferences, labs, gamification, etc.). And the work culture should allow sufficient time (say, 5-15%) for every employee to pursue personal growth. It is greatly beneficial for corporations to track individuals’ capabilities, develop personal growth plans and offer educational and practical experiences to encourage employee loyalty and knowledge sharing. Some companies use staff turnover as an opportunity to bring in new ideas and knowledge from outside the organization.
Knowledge without experience is like cooking without tasting, and theory is often dry and hard to digest. But while we’re all aware of that, today’s efficiency-driven work environment often leaves little opportunity to put new knowledge into practice. Internal investments are often the easiest to cut, especially as it gets into the last quarter of the year. Most businesses are driven by yearly results and don’t have a long-term perspective.
Sharing personal results and learning within a group or public platform generates feedback that is the basis for further learning. In sports this effect is called “supercompensation.” If an organization is able to incorporate a cycle of continuous education, experiencing and sharing, it will build a stairway to success. It just requires a plan with clearly laid out first steps as well as some testimonals that demonstrate the potential and the effectiveness of this process. A lot of research has shown the competitive advantage it conveys, and I don’t understand why it isn’t used more often.
Every employee should strive to devote at least 20% of their time to new knowledge and experiences every month. Doing so will lead to a rethinking of existing solutions, practices and results and will help drive innovative, entrepreneurial thinking. This continuous process of transformation is called active evolution. All of us – and especially our leaders – need to change the way we think about education, fostering a sharing culture and being an active, visible example to drive motivation, loyalty and productivity for our company, brand or team.
Looking to build a brand from A to Z? Need design or copywriting work, a website or some brand consulting? Please drop us a note with as many details as you can about your project and we'll get right back to you.